After Gay Teen's Suicide, Tissue Donation Rejected Due to FDA Policy

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Some of a dead gay teen's organs were not accepted for donation, thanks to a longstanding policy by the Food and Drug Administration barring certain tissue donations from men who have sex with men.

Greg Kabel

Reports that after 16-year-old Iowa teen A.J. Betts committed suicide a year ago, due to severe bullying, some of his organs had been accepted for donation, per his volunteer organ and tissue donor status. But his mother, Sheryl Moore, recently learned via a letter that while her son's liver, lungs, kidneys and heart had been accepted, his eyes were rejected.

"My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn't understand why my 16-year-old son's eyes couldn't be donated just because he was gay," Moore told KCCI. "This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn't get the lifesaving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old."

Because Moore was unsure whether or not her son was sexually active, some of his tissues were ineligible for donation.

Moore was pleased to hear that a 14-year-old boy got her son's heart, but was upset that part of the tissue donation was rejected for what she -- and many leading medical organizations -- believe is an outdated policy.

The Advocate reported on the case, drawing attention to the fact that the FDA maintains a five-year ban on donations from MSM, although they will accept donations from straight people who have slept with a sex worker or even a person with HIV within the past year.

The ban on blood donation, established at their height of the HIV epidemic in the '80s when information was incomplete, remains the FDA's policy, despite a critical need for both blood donations and organ transplants.

From our media partner EDGE


Greg Kabel

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